Stories of Remembrance

Air Force, Second World War (1939-45)Flight Lieutenant Paul Brickhill,Royal Australian Air Force

I was shot down by enemy fighters while on interception patrol, landed by parachute in minefield nr flank of Italian positions, was pulled by parachute to edge of minefield & immediately surrounded & captured by Italian front line troops.
Flight Lieutenant Paul Brickill

Born in Melbourne Paul Brickhill is best known for his stories of Second World War (1939-45) aviation and prisoners of war, in particular The Dambusters and The Great Escape. Less well known however is Brickhill's own wartime service as an Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) fighter pilot and prisoner of war (POW).

Brickhill joined the RAAF early in 1941 leaving behind a promising career as a aviation and defense journalist. Following his initial training he joined many other Australians learning to fly under the Empire Air Training Scheme in Canada before being assigned to fly Spitfires with No.74 Squadron Royal Air Force in January 1942. Transferred to the Middle East Brickhill was eventually shot down over the Mareth Line in Tunisia in March 1943 and taken prisoner by the Italian army.

For the next two years he pursued two disparate goals - escape and writing. In particular Brickhill was involved in the organising of the infamous mass breakout from Stalag Luft III that would form the basis of his book, and later the movie, The Great Escape. Brickhill also sought to maintain his skills as a journalist and writer and collected the stories of Allied POWs where possible, these stories inspired his first book Escape to Danger, co-authored with Conrad Norton and published in 1946.

Following the war Brickhill resumed working as a journalist, covering the Nuremburg Trials before returning to Sydney to write five more books including Reach for the Sky - the story of the famed 'legless pilot' Douglas Bader - and The Dambusters, both of which would later become movies.

Wartime had taken its toll however and Brickhill suffered a series of breakdowns in the 1950s that left him struggling to write and all but ended his career. He passed away in his Sydney home shortly before ANZAC Day 1991.

This Story of Remembrance was compiled through the research of the Exhibitions and Collections team at the Shrine of Remembrance.

  • Name Paul Chester Jerome Brickhill
  • Service Number 403313
  • Date of Birth 20 December 1916
  • Place of Birth Melbourne Victoria
  • Date of Enlistment 06 January 1941
  • Date of Discharge 08 April 1946
  • Date of Death 23 April 1991
  • Place of Death Sydney NSW

Share This On